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Everything You Should Know Before Moving to a Whole New State

It’s not just that pile of boxes — you’ve also got to figure out the tax laws, how to make new friends, and of course, what to do with that giant sack of weed behind your couch

Moving across town sucks — no matter how sweet your new digs are, packing up your belongings, cramming them in a clunky truck and potentially tumbling down a flight of stairs while lugging your couch is a huge pain, sometimes literally.

Moving to a new state, however, is a whole other level of clamor and confusion. But with determination, perseverance and some solid advice, it can be done. I called up several moving experts to answer any questions you might have about starting a brand new life across state lines.

So, uh, how do I go about finding a home in another state?

Looking at new places and eventually landing on one can be especially difficult from a thousand miles away. But if you know someone in your new state who can be convinced to scope out a couple potential places — and better yet, send over some photos and videos — that can be a huge help. “We were lucky, because we had my sister-in-law up here already,” says Jackson Souza, a man who upended his life in L.A. to move to rural Washington. “We looked to rent houses on Craigslist, and then she’d seal the deal.”

If you plan on doing the groundwork yourself, meanwhile, expect to spend a couple weekends — and a good chunk of change — flying to your new homeland to take a look at potential homes. “You spend a lot of time looking at homes, and there were a couple cross-country trips and a few days looking at homes on each of those trips,” admits my dad, who has moved more than 15 times, between two different countries and five different states, in the last 30 years. “That can be expensive.”

To that end, if you want to skip the hassle of finding a forever home in your new state, Souza recommends starting out by renting a cheap apartment — preferably one with a short lease — so you can make bigger home decisions down the line, as a local who can check out new spots without needing to buy a plane ticket. “Just get there, and then figure it out,” he says.

Is there anything else I should know about getting a home in a new state, like different laws?

Building regulations are something to consider. For instance, when my parents bought a home in Texas, within a couple years, oil companies started building huge factories all around their place, something that would have been outright illegal in California (the state they’d called home before Texas). “Part of the problem with Texas for us was, the oil and gas companies there aren’t very well-regulated,” says my dad. “We found ourselves in a situation where we were starting to have fracking coming down the road toward us, and that kind of ruined our environment there. You couldn’t do that in California.” In general, he says, a lot of Southern states have fewer regulations when it comes to big manufacturers encroaching on residential areas, so if you want a serene and peaceful atmosphere without smokestacks, consider looking into the state laws before making a move.

This is also a good time to research anything else that obviously borders the line of legal and illegal depending on the state — say, if your new state is against weed, and you’ve developed a habit for smoking huge doobs while walking down the street, maybe change your behavior, or get some incognito weed pills so you can avoid any trouble. Unfortunately, flying with weed is always risky — and driving it across state lines can be, too — so if you have a big stash, you might just have to finish it off before your big move. Psst, I can help.

Good to know. How do I haul all my stuff across state lines?

Honestly, that depends on your willingness to pack, haul and move, as well as your willingness to spend money on movers. While hiring a moving company is much easier that doing everything yourself, it can be pretty damn pricey: The average cost of a long-distance move is $4,300, and that goes up the more you ask them to do — packing and unpacking your items, more money; adding insurance, more money; moving into a place with a flight of stairs, more money. “We hired a moving company,” says Souza. “It was great to have somebody move our boxes and all that heavy bullshit.” He does stress, however, that the final price is seldom decided until the truck has been loaded and weighed, and in his case, they had to pay much more than expected. To play it safe, assume the cost will be more than it seems, and read through my guide to finding a decent moving company.

Another important thing to consider is how you plan on getting your car (or cars) to your new state. Of course, you can take it upon yourself to drive it across state lines, but if you decide to have it transported by professionals, expect to pay anywhere from $600 to more than $1,000. Depending on what you choose — and how difficult and strenuous your move is — my dad also says selling your car, then buying one in your new location, is a viable option, albeit one that can be tricky and time-consuming.

Speaking of cars, will I need to register mine in the new state? Do I have to take a whole new driving test?

Well, you should definitely head to the DMV in your new state for a new registration and possibly a new license, usually within 30 days of moving, but what you need to do to get those things depends a lot on the state. For example, when my dad moved from California to Texas, he just had to trade in his license and registration at the local DMV. “I just gave them my old California card, and they gave me a new Texas card,” he says. “Texas is pretty liberal in terms of regulations around driving.” However, when he eventually moved back to California, they asked him to take the driving test and written exam all over again, so check your state driving laws before you move. Now, this should be simple enough for any experienced driver, but you can read up on everything you should know here to make sure you ace the damn thing.

You also need to update your car insurance with the new address, which can have a decent impact on how much you pay each month. “In California, and big cities in particular, auto insurance was much higher than in Texas,” says my mom, who moved alongside my dad all those times. How much you pay is generally dependent on how dangerous the area is perceived for drivers by the insurance company, so you should generally expect to pay more in areas with loads of traffic.

What about renters or homeowners insurance?

Again, you also need to let your renters or homeowners insurance company know that you moved, and the cost will change depending on the new area. “Surprisingly, with rural homes, like in Texas, where we had quite a bit of acreage, the homeowners insurance was much higher than in L.A.,” my mom says. 

While dealing with insurance, you should also change your address with the post office, your phone company, your bank, your subscriptions, and of course, your utilities if you want to be able to shower and turn the lights on in your new place. Not to mention, you should probably let your friends and family know where they can find you.

Oh right, friends and family… how do I find new friends in a new state?

The simplest way is to put yourself out there. Talk to your neighbors, get a dog that will force you outside, attend local events, join a sports league, whatever. “I found it much easier in a smaller town,” my mom says, since when you meet one person, they inevitably introduce you to everyone else in town. On the flip side, super rural areas have the potential to be extremely isolating, and Souza says, again, having someone there who you already know can be a huge help.

Considering the current political climate, would I be making a huge mistake by moving somewhere generally misaligned with my views?

Not necessarily, but you will have to put in more work than you would if you were to move somewhere more on your end of the spectrum. When my liberal parents moved from L.A. to rural, conservative Texas, it was rough. “It was a little bit isolating, given today’s political environment,” my dad says. “We went from being in the majority to being in the minority, politically.”

As such, you need to be careful about how you talk politics, something that can be difficult for someone used to being surrounded by like-minded people. “I came to realize that you have to watch what you say, especially in this climate, and respect the fact that not everyone thinks the same way you do,” my mom says. “You can’t make assumptions — even with statements that aren’t necessarily political, per se, but might be perceived as that by some people.”

Fortunately, they were able to find a progressive group online, and if they can find one in rural Texas, you can find one wherever you go. “One of the first things I did, even before we’d decided to move, was to do some research to see if there were any democratic groups in the area we were moving to, and I reached out to them,” my mom explains. “That was very helpful, because we at least didn’t feel like there was no one there who was like-minded. We had a little bit of a community.”

“We were able to find a pocket of friends, but it was not easy,” my dad adds. “It took time. In our case, we mostly made some friends through the democratic club there. Most counties have political organizations. They had regular meetings, so we started going to those. We were at the democratic club on a couple Fourth of Julys, and on their float in a parade.”

On the plus side, while it might be some work finding your people, if you’re a liberal moving to a conservative state, in many cases, you can expect to pay less on real estate. “That’s one of the reasons why people choose those kinds of states to move to when they retire,” my dad says.

What about jobs in a new state?

There are a couple things to consider when it comes to working in a new state. For starters, if you move because of your job, they might foot the bill. “We moved to Australia and back on the company dime,” my dad says. “They paid for all of our moving expenses. Moving for work also means you can deduct moving costs on your tax return.”

Speaking of taxes, if you move to a new state and continue to work remote for a job in your old state, the taxes applied to your income are those belonging to your new resident state. My mom, for instance, worked for a company based in California while she was living in Texas, and she was taxed under Texas laws, which was preferable. “Moving from California to Texas was a tax advantage, because there’s no state income tax there,” she says. However, she does warn that while income tax is worth checking out, also have a look at property tax and sales tax in your new state, because those could be higher or lower, too. You can check out all those laws here.

Now, if you plan on moving states without a job lined up, you should have enough money saved to keep you afloat for at least a few months. On the plus side, applying for jobs out of state has never been easier. “Getting a job out of state, I feel like it’s much easier to do than in the past, because we have LinkedIn, and at least in the tech space, everybody’s very receptive to doing remote calls and interviewing over video,” Souza explains. So if you plan on moving out of state, go ahead and send your resume to potential employers, and see if they’d be open to interviewing you via FaceTime or Skype.

Other than that, you should be all set. Good luck on the move and, you know, be careful with your couch in the stairwell.